Your value is not in the money you earn

“They need to learn the value of money, but they don’t want to get a job.” Because of what I do for work, some of my friends who are parents of teenagers vent to me about their “lazy” children. “I lined up a well-paying summer job for them and they refused to take it.” My response is, “Good,” which is usually followed by an awkward silence.

I ask, “What is it your children actually want to do?” My friends will shrug at me, “They have no idea.” So I prompt, “Have you tried helping them discover more about who they are, what matters to them, and who could benefit from them sharing their gifts?” Then my friends become sheepish, “Uh, no, not really.” I will shrug back.

Already, at an impressionable age, we are teaching our children that who they are is not as important as “making money”. What often happens to people who grow up with this kind of messaging is they spend their entire adult lives doing work that is misaligned, meaningless, and unfulfilling. They become depressed, burned out, and disillusioned with life, which is usually their state of being when I meet them. Because of this conditioning, too many people have no idea who they are or what they have to offer the world, and then, in midlife, they have to enroll in the Vision Program just to remember. I jest about the last bit, but I’m not really joking.

I don’t believe children who refuse to get jobs are being “indolent” or “entitled”. I think there is something in their being that knows they are not supposed to sacrifice themselves just for the almighty dollar. Yes, of course, it is beneficial to help children become responsible for their own financial well-being, but let’s not do it at the cost of their own self-worth. I believe our responsibility as adults is to provide them with a more desirable option.


No one has to “earn a living”

Instead of teaching children to be subservient to money, what if we helped them discover their unique contribution to humanity. When we have the opportunity to be who we are in service to the world, there is no cajoling necessary. When a person recognizes their inherent value, this inner alignment floods them with energy and compels them to get off the couch. I’m not alone in this point of view. Twentieth century inventor and visionary, Buckminster Fuller, who is best known for his work in designing geodesic domes, is quoted as having said:

We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, [each human] must justify [their] right to exist. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

A few points from this passage stand out to me. First, I’ve always wrinkled my nose at the notion of “earning a living”. While it is our current reality that we live in a money economy, to me, the phrase itself implies we must do something in order to earn the right to live. Of course this isn’t true. Our right to exist is innate and completely independent of our income. While it is necessary to flow money through our lives, no one has to “earn a living”.

The second point of note is the idea that one person could support thousands of others. In Fuller’s statement, he was referring to technological advancements, however, the same philosophy applies to financial resources. In our current money system, we operate primarily on a model where there is a direct exchange of goods or services for money. However, if someone’s work is making a valuable contribution, why is it necessary that they be paid directly by those they are serving? Alternatively, there could be one person who is extraordinary at channelling financial resources and uses their talents to direct that money into supporting thousands of others in sharing their valuable gifts. This might sound fanciful, but it already occurs in a way with grantors, benefactors, peer backers, investors, etc. As our current money system continues to evolve, I imagine there to be many other yet-to-be realized potentials for our future economy.

The third point is his precise use of the word “job” and its equation to “drudgery”. The origin of the word job comes from the Middle English jobbe, a variant of the word gobbe, meaning “lump”. The original phrase was a “jobbe of worke”, meaning a “lump of work”, usually referring to something less than desirable thus requiring we be paid to do it. But a job is different from our work. To discover our work is an opportunity to realize our unique contribution.

What if instead of urging our children to get jobs, we asked them this: if you were to eliminate the belief you had to “earn a living”, then what is it you would like to contribute?


Making a valuable contribution

Societally, we have externalized the concept of work to such a degree that we forget to incorporate the most important aspect, which is us. We perceive work as a series of tasks to perform in order to make money instead of it being an opportunity to make a genuine contribution. Some people even question if they have anything of value to offer and this is usually because they’ve been taught to measure their worth by their accomplishments – or worse, by their income. However, our value is more intrinsic than that. What makes each of us valuable is the unique blend of characteristics that comprise who we are, which include our:

  • Beliefs: The individual lens through which we perceive the world.
  • Purpose: The manner in which we show up in life.
  • Experiences: The wisdom, knowledge, and insights gained from what we have lived.
  • Strengths: The inherent qualities or abilities in which we naturally excel.
  • Gifts: The benefits we provide when we apply ourselves in service.
  • Talents: The activities we are drawn to through interest or inclination.
  • Values: The principles that reflect what’s important to us.

All of these facets (and more) make up our being, and when we create opportunities to share our whole being with the world, we are rich with work. To make a contribution doesn’t require there to be some monumental undertaking or a massive audience. More often, it looks like a simple offering to a small community, but this belies the tremendous impact we can have in just being ourselves. The key to making a valuable contribution is we must believe ourselves to be enough.

To urge someone to get a job that has little to do with who they are as a human being is a backhanded way of saying that who they are and what’s important to them doesn’t matter. At this time on earth, we need more people to stand up and claim their inherent value and apply it in service to the world, especially our children. Who better than our children to create the work of the future? We must encourage them to own their worth and help them create opportunities to make the contribution they want to make. From that, the money comes.

We must encourage our children to own their worth and help them create opportunities to make the contribution they want to make.

It is true that money helps us to pay our bills. But when did that become the sole purpose of work? And when did the need to make money supersede the need to be ourselves? And who taught us that making a contribution and making money were incongruent? Some of the people who have made the biggest impact in the history of humanity also happen to be some of the the wealthiest. In contrast, others who have also made some of the most evolutionary contributions died as paupers. None of them were in it for the money. They knew their lives were worth more than that. As for the rest of us, our contribution may never be as far reaching nor our pockets lined with gold, however, the joy to be had in knowing we are worthy and that we are making our unique contribution exceeds any amount of value money provides.


If you’d like to discover your valuable contribution, learn more about the Vision Program here.
Return to library

Stay connected. Be inspired.

Receive notifications of the latest posts by email.

Your information will never be shared.